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Monta Knudson is executive director of Bridges to Change. Tera Hurst is executive director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance.

KnudsonHurstOregon voters made history in November 2020 when they voted Measure 110 into law to increase addiction recovery and harm reduction services across the state. Now, Oregon is writing the playbook on how to transition from criminalizing addiction to treating it as a health issue.

This past summer the Legislature approved early funding of Measure 110 services. The swift action resulted in an immediate infusion of more than $30 million into Oregon's strained behavioral health system. Seventy organizations in 26 counties were funded, including expanding access to culturally and linguistically specific addiction recovery services.

Lawmakers approved $302 million in additional funds for Measure 110 services during the 2021-23 biennium and a massive behavioral health package, together resulting in a nearly $1 billion investment in behavioral health.

But we can't rest on our laurels. Oregon was already last when it came to accessing addiction recovery services. Because of COVID-19, access to services is worse than before the pandemic. Under COVID-19 guidelines, treatment centers are not able to serve as many patients, making it nearly impossible to retain staff and keep operations going.

More than 12 treatment centers are on the verge of closing. Many of these programs serve adolescents; if closures continue at the current rate, Oregon will soon have no adolescent treatment options at all.

Behavioral health providers recently wrote a letter to Gov. Kate Brown, sounding the alarm that these treatment centers were set to close unless they received an immediate infusion of funds.

This is happening at a time when these services are needed more than ever. U.S. drug overdose deaths rose nearly 30% in 2020, to a record 93,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has been a crisis. Now it's a disaster.

We're losing established institutions — and the skilled care and community relationships that go with them. Prior to COVID-19, Oregon had 740 beds available across the state for both single adult and parenting treatment programs. Now Oregon has less than 457 beds available at any given time.

Parenting treatment programs have been hit especially hard since COVID-19, and these programs provide an extremely important service, allowing parents to bring their small children with them while they receive treatment, keeping families together thus keeping children out of foster care.

A quick infusion of funds can make all the difference. For example, thanks to a Measure 110 grant, Bridges to Change was able to keep a recovery house in The Dalles open. The house was set to close and its staff to be laid off due to lack of funding. With the money received they were able to keep the recovery house open, and even expand services there.

It's going to take all of us working together to build the system we want to see. It's time to address Oregon's addiction crisis as an emergency.

Although critical funds have been committed, they're not getting into the hands of providers quickly enough. It's imperative our state work closely with providers to ensure they don't close. In a state that already ranks last in access to treatment, we can't afford to lose even one more slot.

The investments have been promised. The providers have articulated their needs. Let's release the money and start saving lives.

Monta Knudson is executive director of Bridges to Change, an addiction recovery services provider in Washington, Multnomah, Clackamas, Marion and Wasco counties. Knudson is also a member of the Measure 110 Health Services Policy Table. Tera Hurst is executive director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance, the statewide organization whose work is solely dedicated to the implementation of Measure 110.


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